The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd
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The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,209 ratings  ·  139 reviews
Everybody knows the legend of Captain Kidd, America's most ruthless buccanneer. Few people realize that the facts of his life make for a much better tale. Kidd was actually a tough New York sea captain hired to chase pirates, a married war hero whose secret mission took a spectacularly bad turn.

This harrowing tale traces Kidd's voyages in the 1690s from his home near Wall...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published June 18th 2003 by Hyperion (first published 2002)
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Kids, turns out Captain Kidd was not kidding after all when he said he was not a pirate. He was a privateer, and in fact, a pirate hunter.

There is a difference between a pirate and a privateer, and an important one at that (especially in Kidd’s case). A privateer owns a warship which is commissioned by his country to prey on the commercial shipping or warships of an enemy nation. A privateer ship never harms the ships of its home country or even ‘friendlies’. On the other hand, a pirate is some...more
Oct 14, 2008 Danielle rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Danielle by: Danae
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is borderline between "It was okay" and "I liked it" so, 2 1/2 stars.
Basically, you should forget everything you thought you knew about Captain Kidd. Which, for me was, "He was a pirate." Turns out I was even wrong about that. Here are the main things I liked about this book:
1. The true story of what happened to Captain Kidd is quite interesting.
2. It gives you a credible look at what it was really like to be a pirate, in a very entertaining way.
3. It was cool to get a feel for what wa...more
The study of piracy allows author Richard Zacks to satisfy his interest in the bizarre and seedy details of the past. His ten year old book, “The Pirate Hunter,” is a colorful and shocking retelling of the life and voyages of Captain William Kidd. This work often serves as a delivery device for rare and scandalous descriptions of outmoded behavior patterns from the late 17th century, including sex, classism, violence, and injustice. Zacks never fails to find an opening to drop strange details ab...more
Reviews on this book seem a bit mixed, which puzzles me a bit. I found it to be a wonderful read, bringing to life characters such as Captain Kidd and Captain Culliford. I had known little about Kidd before reading this except that he was purportedly one of the most notable pirates of the 17th century. The truth is far from this, his mistake not becoming a pirate, but trusting powerful, greedy people when his luck was down and they would be liable to face scandal. Along the way I learned a bit a...more
Nicole Marble
Surprisingly timely - pirates and justice.
A fascinating, and lengthy, account of the life of Captain Kidd, accused of being a pirate. The story itself is fascinating with abundant details of life in the New and Old worlds in the late 1600's. The scope of research is very impressive!
For those who think todays politics and bureaucracy are rough - read this account! The book gets better and better as we near the end. We learn of the use, and abuse, of habeus corpus (the right to a lawyer), so much...more
Despite the title, this book is actually a biography of two men: Kidd, a bullish New York-Scottish privateer with bad luck; and Robert Culliford, a roguish pirate with extraordinary good luck. The men sailed together more than once; Zacks weaves their stories together as a race of fate, with one headed to the gallows and one to freedom. The book is incredibly thorough, delightful during the juicier pirate-heavy sections but tiresome during the life chronology. Reading through several chapters of...more
Paul (formerly known as Current)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Pirate Hunter, by Richard Zacks, completely turned around any notion I had about the notorious Captain Kidd. Zacks research shows that Captain Kidd's reputation as a villain and terror on the high seas was undeserved. Rather, it appears that Kidd was maligned by others for a variety of reasons, which ultimately led to his capture, trial, execution, and his historical reputation as a pirate.

Zacks narrative gives the reader an appreciation of what life in Britain and the Colonies was like at...more
A.J. Smith
May 16, 2008 A.J. Smith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pirate fans, New York City historians, and anyone looking for a great read.
Like any Navy kid growing up, I always dreamed of being a pirate. Having grown up, I know it will be just a dream. I get the feeling Richard Zacks had the same dreams as a kid. Thank God. Because the effort he put into The Pirate Hunter just doesn't seem possible for someone with merely a passing interest in piracy.
The tale of Captain Kidd is an incredible journey into the life of a man who was thrown so many curves, for centuries he was vilified as the very thing he was trying to hunt. With in...more
Ian Birlem
Dec 26, 2007 Ian Birlem rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
I was as captivated as a small boy might be reading nursery tales about pirates! It's so interesting and just captivating. This is one of the best pieces of history writing I've ever read. The book is well researched and written. It reads like a great fiction book and is loaded with so many details you can picture what life was like in the late 1600's on the ocean, in the colonies and the US. The tales show why young men would rebel against their naval commanders and risk everything to live a wi...more
Ben Dial
In my opinion, this book was fantastic. The author wove multiple narratives together rather seamlessly to compile a very convincing argument that William Kidd was no pirate. This book makes a very compelling argument that Kidd acted legally as a privateer under the direction of High nobles and the King himself.

Seeing evidence of the corruption, backstabbing, and complete disregard for human life, property, or dignity by a government system meant to protect those very virtues was on one hand fasc...more
Fascinating broad-ranging depiction of the late-17th century world in the American Colonies, England, the Indian Ocean & the Caribbean.

This book follows the misunderstood career of the infamous Captain Kidd. Full of vivid, memorable characters.

A world of slavery, constant war at sea among European powers, burgeoning world-girdling commerce in sailing ships, gross class inequality, brutality, piracy. Could not be better done.

But only 4 stars because, like so much of human history, the "win...more
Oct 06, 2008 Evannn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pirate lovers, not pirate smokers
Recommended to Evannn by: Grier
If you love pirates and history (Pirate history, of course), this book is for you! Okay, so that sounded cheesy and lame. However, this book is neither.

A very thorough account of Captain Kidd's (mis?)adventures, and how he got completely double-crossed and sold out by just about everyone. Even i was surprised how bad he had it. Despite the thoroughness of Zacks' presentation, he manages never to lose the story (and it's a good one), so the book never got dry for me. You'll also learn a lot about...more
This book brings many historical persons that you think you already know to life. It is well researched and easy to read, giving the reader a good feel for the life and times of William Kidd et al. Being a sailor myself, I found this book a compelling read and still wonder in awe at what it was like 300 years ago to ply my trade. Iron men indeed! This book was an award winner, and deservedly so.
Michael Gerald Dealino
A story that can rival any that Hollywood can produce-only that, this one is a true story. Captain Jack Sparrow, say hello to a real character from the 17th century, one who may have been framed up and whose reputation tarnished by the real pirate he was tasked to hunt.
Mark Richmond
Mr. Zacks wrote this so well, I felt like I was there. The historical research he did on this was spot on! I could smell the smells of the wretched streets in old England. I could not put this book down and you won't be able to either!
Randy Corley
I read a lot of history books, thought this book was a great example of story telling. The history book reads as though it was a novel, making it a very compelling and interesting read.
W. Lawrence
Truth is stranger than fiction, and the saying echoes through the ages because of stories like this.

Zacks tells the story of the notorious not-so-pirate (known in those days as a privateer) who goes after Robert Culliford, who is definitely a classic pirate.

I've read most of Zacks' books and he continues to astound me by making history so incredibly entertaining that you sometimes forget you are reading non-fiction.

Can't say enough about him as an author. If you are looking for a break from the...more
Rob Charpentier
I ask you, who doesn’t like pirates? Well, for one, the infamous Captain Kidd was not a fan. In fact, he actually was their worst enemy. It was his job to hunt them down and recapture their ill-gotten goods. Yet, history has somehow wrongfully labeled him as being one of the more notorious pirates of his day. So much so, that his name has instant brand recognition alongside the likes of real life pirates such as Blackbeard, Black Bart, Black Sam and a vast assortment of other black-hearted ficti...more
La primera vez no pude con él. Pero ahora que ando escasa de fondos y que me resisto a ir por el camino fácil, lo releo casi todo. La primera vez lo abandoné a las cien páginas porque El cazador de piratas no es un libro ameno sobre patas de palo, parches y grog. Es un tratado histórico sobre la suerte de un marino escocés al que contrataron para cazar piratas y al que ahorcaron sus patrocinadores, rey inglés incluido. Es una biografía detallada del pirata que tenía un tesoro que aumentaba cada...more
Jan 30, 2011 Brandon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, naval scholars, fans of legal thrillers
Captain Kidd is one of the most familiar pirates out there, but in truth he wasn't a pirate at all. He was a patriotic sailor and a war hero who had settled down with a beautiful wife and respectable job as a merchant sailor when he felt the call of the sea anew. After a failed attempt at an officer's commission in the Royal Navy, he entered into a secret business deal with some wealthy gentlemen; he would hunt pirates and enemies of the British Crown, securing treasure and loot for his partners...more
Richard Zacks tells a fast paced account of two pirates in Pirate Hunter. The book focuses on Captain Kidd the respectable merchant who bet his fortune on hunting pirates and became the victim of bad misfortune and political luck. The other is of Robert Culliford the pirate who serves as Kidd’s foil throughout this tale and the target of Kidd’s hunt in the Indian Ocean. From the economic war between the great nations of the day to the spat between the old and the new East India Trading Company,...more
I found myself getting bogged down by the author's penchant for skipping around in different times. For example, you're reading about two pirates and have been reading about them for some time, when suddenly he states, "in fact, they had met some time before..." and then goes to another chapter about what occurred ten years before. He does this several times and I found it disconcerting, and in some cases, boring. This author also has a way of stating an unpleasantry in a blunt and vulgar manne...more
Clare Fitzgerald
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 04, 2013 Randal rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious history buffs
Shelves: nonfiction
Fantastically well-researched, but not much fun.
Zacks pretty clearly sets out his hypothesis early on -- that William Kidd was a privateer, not a pirate, who died because the political winds had shifted and the men who granted his charter as a privateer no longer supported him by the time he sailed back from his epic cruise to the Indian Ocean.
Unfortunately, Kidd's real life is nowhere near as interesting as his legend:
He sailed here, but didn't attack a ship because it wasn't an enemy of Englan...more
Warnie B.
Well, I didn't finish this one. I didn't like the narrator much at ALL, and I found the conclusions Zacks makes at times somewhat ridiculous. Zacks describes all these things that Kidd did that either smack of piracy or skirt right along the edge of it and then seems to claim that Kidd was villified for absolutely no reason. Though Kidd may well have been innocent of piracy, Zacks really wasn't doing much to convince me of it. I would have probably pushed through, but my iPod died and lost my pl...more
This was a very interesting read for me, even though I am not a pre 20th Century historian. I knew a little about the history of Captain Kidd and how history has looked upon him. However, I did not realize how screwed he actually was. Although he may have been an excellent captain and capable man, he obviously lacked some kind of common sense. Not only did he agree to go "a-pirate" hunting but he allowed for it to be backed by men who from the start made the whole thing a shady proposition. In t...more
Mark Vandervinne
I'm not a big fan of historical non-fiction. Too often I find it full of dates and names with no emotion behind it. This book however was not that way. At least most of the time. Richard Zacks makes a great case for Captain Kidd not being a true pirate, but instead a privateer that ran into some unfortunate events. But he still manages to create a world of piracy, as well as well-rounded characters to put them into and seems to have done a thorough amount of research to back it all up. One of th...more
I have a fascination with Pirates. This story about a Pirate Hunter was a great read. I had no idea that history was this involved in the world of pirates. Captain Kidd was akin to the first federal marshall, hunting down those evil marauders, but was he true to his cause? (teaser) Loved this book. Wish there were more like it.

Derek Rathbun
After reading 'Pirate Hunter' I realized that I had a completely unfounded idea of who Captain Kidd was. He was not the blood thirsty killer he was portrayed as in Assassin's Creed 3 or in several pirate movies. Kidd was a privateer who was legally commished by the King of England to hunt pirates and harass the French. Due to a misunderstanding though and for failing to show proper respect he was labeled a rouge and branded a pirate. Kidd's crew later mutinied against him and left him on a deser...more
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Richard Zacks (1955-?) was born in Savannah, Georgia but grew up in New York City. He was a Classical Greek major at the University of Michigan and studied Arabic in Cairo, Italian in Perugia, and French in the vineyards of France.. After completing Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, he wrote a syndicated column for four years carried by the NY Daily News, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News...more
More about Richard Zacks...
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